on 15 April 2012
4 Cds, and they're all top drawer. Putting aside what Ace do with their Southern Soul and Fame Studio box sets, this is seriously good value for money at under £25, and one of the best reissues of 2012 thus far.
I know there'll be some caveats: not enough Sun material, nor enough of the live recordings. My main caveat is that there is not enough of the Southern Roots album , which was the last great album of the Killer's. Only two tracks, however, yet there should have been countless more. Whither That Old Bourbon Street Church, or Meat Man ? It didn't even merit a mention in the booklet, whereas the Session did.
Objectively, I have always found the Session to be similar to albums recorded by Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf in London, whereby the older artist retreads his way through some older tracks, and the younger guest plays some tasty licks. I prefer Jerry Lee's version of Drinkin Wine Spo Dee o Dee from 1966's Memphis Beat album, and where was the marvellous coda to The Session that was Jack Daniels Old No 7 ?
However, I have still given it five star: 12 tracks from the Sun era is more than enough. Record shops are inundated, and so too is Itunes, with budget versions of Jerry Lee's Sun material. I have also found that the Sun material lacks the emotional depth and maturity of the post 1968 country material, nor does Jerry rock as hard as he did on, yes you guessed it, Southern Roots. I also think that, on disc 1, two of his best rock tracks are I'm On Fire and Hi Heel Sneakers, which are from the Smash era.
The early Smash era, up to Soul My Way, was a series of misfires, but with some great tracks, i.e. I'm On Fire, Hi Heel Sneakers, Green Green Grass of Home, but Shelby Singleton and Jerry Kennedy didn't know what to do with Jerry Lee - Can we market him rock, country, soul, blues etc ? Smash also had the same problem with Charlie Rich, and he had to wait until 1972 for success after his initial promise of greatness on Lonely Weekends from 1960.
However, it is disc 2 where Jerry Lee really kicks up a gear. Country was as natural as living and breathing to the Killer. From 1968 - 1973 he hardly misfired, and his earning capacity skyrocketed. What was amazing about Another Place, Another Time, What's Made Milwaukee Famous, She Still Comes Around, and She Even Woke Me Up To Say Goodbye, was that there were all stripped down honky-tonk ballads. The strings didn't kick in until 1971 with Touching Home, Would You Take Another Chance On Me, and Think About It Darlin. I think the only misfire on Disc 2 is Roll Over Beethoven with Linda Gail Lewis: it really doesn't rock.
Disc 3 shows that the country is getting diluted somewhat with strings. The material is still great, ranging from Chantilly Lace through to Boogie Woogie Country Man. However, it is the country stuff that still has the emotional depth, i.e. No Traffic Out of Abilene, Ride Me Down Easy, Sometimes A Memory, He Can't Fill My Shoes. Though, I feel we could have done with Jerry Lee's cover of Billy Joe Shaver's Bottom Dollar, or Keep Me From Blowing Away, or the greatest ever Killer outtake, All Over Hell & Half of Georgia.
Disc 4 highlights the final years of the Mercury recordings. Again it's the country stuff that means the most, that shows the Killer more engaged. Jerry Lee's Rock n Roll Revival Show is a turgid track on a great album, i.e. Country Class. The Closest Thing to You, Let's Put It Back Together, Middle Age Crazy, and Come On In are all great country tracks, yet I Hate You is an undiscovered gem from the pen of Dan Penn: an equally good version of this track is by Bobby Bland on Get On Down, which was Bobby's country album.
We then move to the Elektra recordings from 1979-1980; Rockin My Life Away totally annihilates Jerry Lee's Rock n Roll Revival Show. It's a pity there was no space for the Killer's version of Rita Mae from 1979, which was The Killer cutting Bob Dylan for the first and last time, thus far, or his version of Don't Let Go. However, as Bobby Gillespie stated on the recent Ron Wood show on Sky1, you can't beat the Killer's version of Over the Rainbow, which is here on all its glory, and so too is 39 & Holdin' which was the Killer's last great country hit.
This leaves me to state that the last few tracks are from the MCA era, the Class of 55, and a re-recording of Wild One from 1989. The MCA stuff could have benefited from having She Sang Amazing Grace and That Was The Way It was Then on the compilation, and Honky Tonk Rock n Roll Piano Man excised from the compilation. Sixteen Candles though was the best thing on the Class of 55 album. However, what about the X Rated Whole Lotta Shakin' from the Great Balls of Fire soundtrack, or It Was The Whisky Talkin' ? I think the original version of Whisky Talkin was from the soundtrack to Dick Tracey, an awful movie enlivened by the Killer's dixieland track.
Ultimately, you want the Killer, buy this as it highlights the true, many sides of Jerry Lee.